The Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals faced off Sunday afternoon in the final week of the 2021 preseason. Both teams took long looks at the depth players, with the majority of the starters either taking only a few snaps or not playing at all. Just two days away from the final round of roster cuts, the game was an important one for players trying to make an impression on their current coaching staff, as well as potentially get noticed by another team should they be waived this week.
It was actually a really entertaining game, something that does not always happen in the preseason.
Dolphins 29 - Bengals 26
The Dolphins received the opening kickoff and, as expected, the team did not play most of their starters. The opening dive looked like a team using their depth players as their starting unit. The drive featured an incomplete pass, a run from Gerrid Doaks for four yards, a false start penalty, and a sack of quarterback Reid Sinnett. The drive, in three plays, accounted for a loss of 11 yards and led to a three-and-out punt.
The Bengals’ first possession was not much better. After a short run from Tyler Boyd, quarterback Joe Burrow, in his 2021 preseason debut, threw an incomplete pass, with an unnecessary roughness penalty called on the Bengals after the play. Joe Mixon then ran for five yards, leading to a three-and-out for Cincinnati after a negative-eight-yard possession.
The second drive for Miami was a lot better, as Sinnett seemed to settle in and the offensive line found some rhythm. Running back Gerrid Doaks picked up 19 yards on six carries on the drive, including a three-yard carry for the touchdown. Sinnett was four-for-five on the possession, gaining 48 yards through the air, including two receptions for 25 yards from Patrick Laird. Dolphins 7-0.
Cincinnati again looked to match Miami’s performance. Replacing Joe Burrow with Brandon Allen at quarterback, the possession started slowly, with the Bengals facing a 3rd-and-7 early, but picking up the first down with an eight-yard pass from Allen to Mike Thomas. The Dolphins' defense again set up the Bengals to have to punt, but Chris Evans was able to convert the 3rd-and-2 play on a two-yard run. Allen then dropped two perfect passes into overage, first to Trenton Irwin for a 23-yard gain down the left sideline, then coming back and finding Evans in the endzone for the 29-yard score. Tied 7-7.
Sinnett started Miami’s possession with a pretty pass down the middle to Malcolm Perry for 18 yards, then, after a loss of four on a Doaks run, Sinnett was able to find Kai Locksley for 16 yards. The drive slowed after that, however, as Miami faced a 4th-and-3. Going for the first down, Sinnett threw a pass a little too far in front of Merritt, who got a hand on the ball but popped it up for Trayvon Henderson to pick off.
Cincinnati took the turnover and immediately began moving, picking up 13 yards on the first three plays. A holding penalty slowed the drive, but a 2nd-and-20 play featured a 21-yard pass from Allen to Mitchell Wilcox to jump-start the possession again. However, three plays later, a false start penalty stalled out the drive at the Miami 18-yard line, leading to a 36-yard field goal. Bengals 10-7.
Miami’s possession did not start how they would want, with Greg Little called for a false start, but it picked up steam after that. Doaks continued to pick up yards on the ground, adding 22 yards on five carries, including punching it into the endzone on a one-yard run. Merritt nearly scored a play before Doaks’ touchdown, fighting through two tackle attempts before going down at the one for a 13-yard gain. Malcolm Perry and Locksley both picked up seven yards on receptions on the drive, while Jordan Scarlett was able to pick up 15 yards on a rush. Dolphins 14-10.
The Bengals replaced Allen with Kyle Shurmur for the next possession, as the team looked to run a two-minute offense and add points before the halftime break. After an incomplete pass, Jacques Patrick picked up 15 yards up the middle of the Miami defense. Shurmur then connected with Thomas down the sideline for 32 yards, with a holding penalty negating the next play and setting up a 2nd-and-20 from the Bengals’ 44-yard line. Shurmur found Auden Tate for five yards then, after a timeout, found Patrick for 12 yards on a slant. Evan McPherson then hooked through a 57-yard field goal to end the half. Dolphins 14-13.
After the halftime break, Cincinnati received the kickoff, the Bengals put themselves in a hole with two straight holding penalties, backing them into a 1st-and-26 from their own nine-yard line. Shumur was able to connect on two passes to make up the distance, however, moving the team out to the 35-yard line. After two runs from Williams, then a one-yard loss on a screen pass, the Bengals elected to go for it on 4th-and-4. Miami perfectly covered the play, with Jamal Perry breaking up the pass only to have the deflected ball land in Trent Taylor’s hands, with no one around him. He ran down the field for a 45-yard gain, followed by a Patrick one-yard score. Bengals 20-14.
Miami could not respond on their next drive, despite the possession starting with a 14-yard run from Doaks. Two incomplete passes with a one-yard run in between led to a Miami punt.
Cincinnati did nothing with their next drive, picking up 26 yards on seven plays before having to put the ball back to the Dolphins.
Miami looked like they were ready to get moving when the first play of the drive saw Sinnett connect with Malcolm Perry for a 36-yard catch and run. The drive stalled three plays later, however, when a nine-yard sack of Sinnett on 3rd-and-5 led to another punt.
Starting at their own 20-yard line, the Bengals marched straight down the field on the Dolphins. The drive started with a Shurmur pass to Stanley Morgan for nine yards, and the momentum carried on from there. In eleven plays, Cincinnati drove the 80 yards needed to score, ending with a Shurmir pass to Scotty Washington from nine yards out. They failed on a two-point try. Bengals 26-14.
Miami responded with a touchdown drive of their own, going 75 yards in seven plays. Alternating passing plays and running plays, Sinnett was able to find Locksley for six yards, then Jordan Scarlett ran for five yards. Then Sinnett round Locksley again, this time for 10 yards, with Scarlett adding four yards. Sinnett then connected with Khalil McClain for 18 yards. After Sinnett scrambled for a loss of one and an offensive pass interference penalty backed up Miami ten yards, Sinnett found Merritt streaking down the sideline for a 43-yard touchdown. Bengals 26-21.
Cincinnati ran for nine yards on their three plays of the next drive, then tried to get Miami to jump offsides on a 4th-and-1 play. When the Dolphins did not fall for it, the Bengals called timeout and punted on a three-and-out drive.
On first down, Miami picked up 14 yards on a pass from Sinnett to Scarlett, who took the dump-off pass and ran through the defense. Two incomplete passes led to a 3rd-and-10, Sinnett found McClain down the sideline for 26 yards. Sinnett then threw to Patrick Laird for three yards, with the running back getting out of bounds to stop the clock. Sinnett then threw to Perry in the middle of the field, leading to the two-minute warning. An incomplete pass after the break was followed by a sack of Sinnett. Facing 3rd-and-15, Miami tried to run a screen to Laird, but a perfectly executed blitz created pressure before the screen was setup, and Sinnett just had to throw away the pass. After a time out, Miami faced 4th-and-15, with Sinnett pressured backwards, then to his right, where he heaved a ball up into the endzone and Chris Myarick somehow came down with it for the score. Sinnett, after being shaken up on the touchdown play, came back on the two-point conversion attempt to find Perry on the crossing route to convert the attempt. Dolphins 29-26.
The Bengals looked to run their two-minute offense, attempting to make a comeback to win the game. Shumur was forced to scramble on first down, then threw incomplete on second down before finding Irwin for 16 yards on 3rd-and-8. He then threw incomplete again before finding Thadeus Moss for four yards. After a timeout, Shurmur connected with Patrick for six yards, with a (questionable) unnecessary roughness penalty on the Calvin Munson tackle adding 15 yards. Shumur was then incomplete three straight times, setting up 4th-and-10 from the Miami 32-yard line. On a deep pass down the right, Noah Igbinoghene was in perfect coverage and broke up the pass, sealing the win for Miami.
Jakeem Grant not dressing for the game in which Miami is not playing their starters probably says something about his roster position.
The offensive line definitely looked like the second-string offensive line out there on the first drive.
Gerrid Doaks is looking to prove he can carry the ball as the fourth running back on the roster, while Patrick Laird has been strong early as a receiving target out of the backfield. The battle between these two for what could be one roster spot will be interesting all day.
Brandon Allen has a great touch for Cincinnati. He has dropped a couple of passes into perfect coverage but leaving the ball where only his receiver could make a catch.
Halftime thoughts: The first half featured Doaks and Merritt, setting them up well for claiming roster spots. Doaks had 14 carries for 41 yards with two touchdowns. Merritt caught two passes, one a leaping catch and one the new-touchdown where he broke two tackles, for 28 yards. Patrick Laird, battling Doaks for the (likely) final roster spot among running backs ran one time for two yards along with two receptions for 25 yards. Sinnett, who could be headed to the practice squad, was solid in running the offense. Malcolm Perry had two catches for 25 yards as he looks to fight his way onto the roster as well. No one jumped off the page on defense for Miami, though there was some solid play from across the roster.
Malcolm Perry is trying to make a case to make the roster. He is probably headed to the practice squad if he clears waivers, just because there is not enough space with all the other receivers on the roster. He could have an impact on the season from the practice squad, either as a game-day elevation or a full promotion to the active roster.
Sinnett was great all game. He is developing nicely. Hopefully, Miami can stash him on the practice squad for another year. He could be their 2022 backup behind Tua Tagovailoa.
Sinnett’s final stat line was 22-for-33 for 343 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.